Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Halves, Wholes, Eighths, Fourths and More!

I have to give major props to my 2nd Grade GT teacher! Him and his class LOVE to app-smash! At first he was very hesitant because he didnt know if students would have trouble toggling between apps to get something done. Not the case with this class! For this particular unit, students were having to identify fractions. To challenge the students, he wanted them to use an app called "Geo Board" along with "Pic Collage." Geo Boards, if you dont know, is a digital board where you can drag and drop virtual rubber bands to create various shapes.
The process he wanted his students to go through was to first create the shape in the Geo Board. Once this was done, the student was to screen-shot the image and import it into Pic Collage to where they would have to write down the name of the fraction (half, fourth, etc.)  Unfortunately I was not able to attend this activity because I was at a meeting, however he told me that everything went smoothly.  Prior to the activity, we had talked about asking higher level questions to the students. I left him with a few examples so that he could try. He did say that students did have trouble answering those types of questions, so our goal is to try and come up with different strategies to help smooth out these wrinkles.

Side note- I am super proud of this teacher! He has come such a long way with integrating technology into his classroom!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fun With Lines in 4th Grade

My 4th Grade teacher is awesome! During our planning meetings, she tells me things like "I want to do things other than "substitution" with my technology activities." (Referring to the SAMR Model.) For this particular unit, students were learning about lines, line segments, points, etc. When talking with her, she wanted to take her students outside and have them explore and take pictures of lines, segments, etc. However, due to the absolute frigid  43 degree weather we were having, we decided to let the kids explore inside the school for these items. Once they had taken the pictures they were to put them into pic collage to organize them. Once they did that, they would come back to the classroom and app-mash it with Thing Link.  My teacher did an excellent job of putting together a rubric together for the students in which they were able to take with them on their exploration so that they can know what to expect. She also did a great job of fielding any questions that students had before getting started!

After students got their snaps, they started putting these images into ThingLink in which they had to answer 2 questions about what their line was and why they named it that particular line. Just to set the stage, the teacher and I had both been talking about how we can ask more "open ended questions" to get more out of the students. We tried that approach today and boy was there a noticeable difference one the ball got rolling! To be quite honest, there was a lot of "awkward silence" when she started asking these types of questions, however this teacher kept probing until she got the answer she was looking for! Her questions were so good that you had students going to the board (on their own!) to justify why they named their line what they did!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Soil Activity in 4th Grade

Every other Thursday or so, I get to meet with my teachers after school and talk about upcoming activities, new ideas, successes/room for improvement, etc. About two weeks ago I showed my teachers 3 new apps that I had learned about at the TCEA conference we went to. The apps were, ChatterPix, ThingLink and Word Cloud. The goal of this session was for teachers to get their feet with how they work that way when we meet to plan, they will have more tools to choose from. When I met with my 4th Grade teacher to plan out for the upcoming week, she had told me that she wanted to use ThingLink with her upcoming activity. To enhance the lesson even more, she thought it would be a great idea if she used two apps (Pic Collage and Thinglink) to really drive home what was going to be taught.

The lesson that was going to be taught for the day had to do with soil. Students were given 4 types of soil on plates in which one of the group members had to take a picture of each one, and put it into Pic Collage along with labeling it. Once students were finished in Pic Collage, they had to import their image into ThingLink and list attributes of each type of soil. Once they were done, students would export it out into ThingLink. When students were done, the teacher showed each of their work on the screen so that students could see how others described their soil.

Major props to this teacher btw. At our post-conference, she told me that she wants to keep doing activities that are higher on the SAMR model! I'm so glad teachers are starting to use this term!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

3-D Shapes Scavenger Hunt

Today I was in one of my First Grade teacher's classrooms working on some iPads when I hear, "Hey Mr. Chavez, my kids are about to go on a scavenger hunt for 3-D shapes in our classroom, do you want to join us?" The teacher was telling me that she had set up random stations with various 3D shapes around the room. She wanted her students to take pictures of these objects and label them in Pic Collage. At the beginning of this year I used to use a stability ball to sit on, however I stopped using it because I found a sweet chair to sit on. Needless to say, the ball or "sphere" made an appearance in that classroom today! Anyways, students really enjoyed this activity and I know the was definitely stretched out of her comfort zone. She told me, "I am so used to having control of my classroom, this must be what it is like to let go of some of that control!" She was absolutely right! It was so fun watching kids work in groups working together on this task!

However, I think we both reached a turning point today. As a district, we have been talking about the level of questions that students ask each other and the types of questions we ask the students. While the activity was going on we pulled out a resource from a technology training that we had the day before. This resource had higher level / opened ended questions on it that we could ask the students. I think one of the questions that was asked was, "Explain to me how a cube is still a cube even though they are different sizes." The student then came to the front of the class and was able to explain to the class that the features of a cube stayed the same regardless of the the size of the cube! The teacher started asking more of these questions and it went on for almost 10 minutes! Both the teacher and I were very amazed to hear new conversations about cubes and other 3d shapes taking place that were all stemmed from one open ended question! Once the school day was over me and this teacher talked about what happened that day! Our goal from here on in is for us as well as the students to ask these higher level questions that really hook the students into diving deeper into their learning!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Head in the Clouds

So I was browsing through some old photos on my iPad and realized that I forgot to blog about a really cool activity that my 1st grade teacher did a while back! At the time, students were going over "Objects in the Sky" in Science. When talking to my 1st Grade Teacher, she had told me that she wanted to take her students outside and have them take pictures of the clouds, sun and other objects in the side. She then provided them a list of descriptive words in which they would use in creating a Pic Collage with it. For the activity, students were paired up and allowed to explore outside. They were given about 15 minutes to take pictures. Even though they are first graders, I noticed many of them are perfectionists! They wanted their pictures to look good! If a picture was blurry, they would re-take it. If it wasn't the "exact" cloud they had wanted, they would go and find the one they were looking for! Once the pictures were taken, students went back to the classroom and created a Pic Collage which talked about the characteristics of the clouds. I was so proud of the teacher and students about this project!

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Hey! I'm Actually Understanding This!!"

A few months back, my 4th Grade Math / Science teacher and I came up with the idea of posting online video tutorials of various math strategies. Although majority of these tutorials are made by the teacher, she did take a risk and let a student create one and be seen by other students! It was fun to see students' response when they heard their classmate's voice over the iPad! The goal was to look at what students are having problems with and create "how-to" tutorials on solving those types of problems. These past few weeks, this teacher posted quite a few tutorials and asked me to help roll them out to her students while she worked with her kiddos at the table in small group. My job was to help get the students onto the website to where they could access the videos / math problems. To be honest, the first day we did this, it took quite a while to navigate through Safari to our school's website, to the teacher's page, to the folder that the videos were in, etc. We eventually got there, but it took about 5-6 minutes for everyone to be on the same page.  (More on this in a second.) Once we got to the page, I explained the purpose of these video tutorials to the students. After explaining to the students, they began watching the designated tutorial and taking notes. One of the awesome things about these tutorials is the fact that they are self-paced and can be replayed in sections if the student feels that they aren't understanding. After the first round of videos, students had two supplemental problems they had to work out using the same strategies that were shown in the video. Long story short, once the problems were completed, I overheard several student comments to the teacher such as, "I am actually understanding how to divide!" and "Is there any way we can do this at home!?" I was so proud of the students AND the teacher! I really think the teacher is on to something with these tutorials! She says she plans on making more so that is a huge plus!

*The afternoon group went much more smoothly! I created QR codes for the teacher so all the students had to do was scan the code and it went directly to the proper website! 

Here is an one of the student created tutorial:


Here is one of the teacher made tutorials:


Friday, February 13, 2015

Google Draw, Google Docs, Peer Review!

 Wow! What a thrilling past two weeks in 5th Grade ELA! The week before my team and I left to TCEA, my 5th grade ELA teacher and I planned for the week when I returned.To set the stage, this teacher LOVES using technology in her classroom, however she has been utilizing it in centers. I am all for centers and have seen some amazing things happen in her centers! However, during our planning meeting I asked her if she would be willing to "step out of her comfort zone" in an activity. She agreed to do so! When I asked her what was coming up, she said that her and her class have been doing a lot of writing and she wanted to focus on peer review. We thought of the different tools and apps that might be able to help her with this. We considered Explain Everything, but that didnt quite meet her and her student's needs. We then thought of Microsoft Word, however that would take a lot of time and consistency with students having to use the same laptop everyday. It would have been a good option, however time was a huge factor with this project. I then suggested to her to consider using Google Docs. This teacher had never used Docs before in a classroom setting, however both of her classes had used it before with a different teacher so they understood the basics of finding their document etc. 

Here's a day by day: 
Monday: On Monday, students were introduced to what they would be doing for that day. They learned how to use Google Draw (a really powerful tool within Google Docs) to create their own Graphic Organizer.

Tuesday: On Tuesday, students had written out 3 questions that they wanted to research about a person. On this particular day, they were going to to find their info. To be honest, this didnt go as well as we had hoped. Students struggled to find answers to their questions. After reflecting about how this went with the teacher, we decided to take a different approach for the next day. 

Wednesday: Wanting today a be a better day, we decided to use the research tool that was built inside Google Docs to help students find answers to their research questions. Let's just say that today was a TOTAL 180 from Tuesday! Things were clicking, students were finding answers and things were getting done! The teacher and I agreed that using this feature would be best for the future! I think the students appreciated the fact that everything was more organized to!

Thursday: Thursday will be a day that I never forget in my life! This was the first time that we had ever used Google for peer review and honestly, I was extremely nervous! However, thanks to the teacher's excellent organization and tech-hungry 5th graders we made it work! Each student was given a partner's document to review. They had to leave one positive comment and one suggestion. You should have seen the look on the student's faces when they saw "someone else" in their document! However, students totally appreciated the feedback that was given!!

Nearpodding it Up in 1st Grade!

At our campus, First Grade has been learning about "equal shares"and  "equal parts." Teachers have been using various tools and resources to help their students understand this concept. One First Grade teacher wanted to use Nearpod to help enhance the student's learning. I was so proud of this teacher! She put the entire Nearpod presentation together all on her own! Students were extremely responsive and totally engaged! Students were able to work in partners. It was so fun to see them exploring this app together!